Why practice doesn’t make perfect

1: Dr. Matthew Walker had just finished delivering a public lecture on sleep when a distinguished-looking gentleman dressed in a tweed suit jacket approached the podium.   

“As a pianist,” he said, “I have an experience that seems far too frequent to be chance.  I will be practicing a particular piece, even late into the evening, and I cannot seem to master it.  Often, I make the same mistake at the same place in a particular movement.  I go to bed frustrated. But when I wake up the next morning and sit back down at the piano, I can just play perfectly,” Matthew shares in his powerful book Why We Sleep.

The gentlemen’s inquiry intrigued Matthew.  He replied it was a fascinating idea, but he knew of no scientific evidence to support the claim.  

Ultimately, it sent him on a three-year journey to discover the answer.  He and his colleagues eventually ran an experiment taking a large group of right-handed individuals and taught them to to type a number sequence on a keyboard with their left hand, such as 4-1-3-2-4, as quickly and as accurately as possible. 

“Like learning a piano scale, subjects practiced the motor skill sequence over and over again, for a total of twelve minutes, taking short breaks throughout,” he writes.  Not surprisingly, the participants got better with time.  

2: This is where it gets interesting.

The participants were divided into two groups.  Half learned the sequence in the morning.  They were tested twelve hours later after remaining awake for the rest of the day.  The other half learned the sequence in the evening.  They were retested the following morning, also after a twelve-hour delay, but one that contained a full eight-hour night of sleep.

The results?

“Those who remained awake across the day showed no evidence of a significant improvement in performance,” Matthew writes.  “However, fitting with the pianist’s original description, those who were tested after the very same time delay of twelve hours, but that spanned a night of sleep, showed a striking 20 percent jump in performance speed and a near 35 percent improvement in accuracy.”

The surprises don’t stop there.  Those participants who learned the sequence early in the day, who showed no improvement that evening, also experienced an identical improvement in performance the following morning after a full night’s sleep.

As it turns out, practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice, with sleep, makes perfect.

3: The amount of sleep we get is a key driver in this equation.  “The increases in speed and accuracy, underpinned by efficient automaticity, were directly related to the amount of stage 2 NREM, especially in the last two hours of an eight-hour night of sleep (e.g., from five to seven a.m., should you have fallen asleep at eleven p.m.),” Matthew writes.   

There is a steep price to pay by those of us who cut short our sleep.

“Those last two hours of sleep are precisely the window that many of us feel it is okay to cut short to get a jump start on the day,” Matthew notes.  “As a result, we miss out of this feast of late-morning sleep spindles.”

More tomorrow.

Reflection:  Am I getting enough sleep?  Do I prioritize sleep?    

Action: Track my sleep over the next two weeks, using a Fitbit, Oura ring, or by manually tracking. 

What are the benefits of sleep on our brain?

1: Shakespeare was right.  

Writing in Macbeth, he tells us sleep is “the chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

Four hundred years later, the science now shows how sleep has a seemingly miraculous effect on our ability to learn and remember. Yesterday, we looked at a controlled experiment in which those who took a nap after doing intensive learning were able to recall 20 percent more information than those who did not.  

What exactly is going on here?  Why does sleep so powerfully impact the learning ability of the human brain?

2: In his book Why We Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walker describes how the hippocampus section of our brain collects our experiences during any given day; it provides “a short-term reservoir, or temporary information store, for accumulating new memories.”

There is a snag, however.  Our hippocampus has a limited storage capacity.  When it’s full, it’s full.

The good news?  While we sleep, inside our brain, there are “short, powerful bursts of electrical activity called sleep spindles,” Matthew writes.  “The more sleep spindles an individual obtained during the nap, the greater the restoration of their learning when they woke up.”

Looking deep into the brain, Matthew and his colleagues are able to see how our sleep modifies the information architecture of our brain: information stored in our short-term memory is moved to a different part of the brain designed for longer-term retention.  

“The pulses kept weaving a path back and forth between the hippocampus, with its short-term, limited storage space, and the far larger, long-term storage site of the cortex (analogous to a large-memory hard drive),” Matthew observes. “In that moment, we had just become privy to an electrical transaction occurring in the quiet secrecy of sleep: one that was shifting fact-based memories from the temporary storage depot (the hippocampus) to a long-term secure vault (the cortex).”

Sleep helps to “future-proof” our memories while “delightfully” clearing out our hippocampus providing “plentiful free space” for new short-term memories.  

“We awake with both yesterday’s experiences safely filed away and having regained [our] short-term storage capacity for new learning throughout that following day. The cycle repeats each day and night,” Matthew notes. “We and other research groups have since repeated this study across a full night of sleep and replicated the same finding: the more sleep spindles an individual has at night, the greater the restoration of overnight learning ability come the next morning.”

3: There is a problem, however, for those of us who do not get enough sleep.

“Of broader societal relevance, the concentration of NREM-sleep spindles is especially rich in the late-morning hours, sandwiched between long periods of REM sleep, Matthew notes. “Sleep six hours or less and you are shortchanging the brain of a learning restoration benefit that is normally performed by sleep spindles.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Am I getting enough sleep?  Do I prioritize sleep?    

Action: Track my sleep over the next two weeks, using a Fitbit, Oura ring, or by manually tracking.

A simple way to improve your life?

1: “Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious,” writes Matthew Walker

Sound too good to be true?  If it were a new drug, many of us would be skeptical and suspicious.  But it’s not a new drug.  

What is this amazing breakthrough?  These are the proven benefits of a full night of sleep.

“While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate,” writes Matthew in his book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. “The evidence supporting these claims has been documented in more than 17,000 well-scrutinized scientific reports to date.”

And yet, all too often, we (including yours truly), avoid the nightly invitation to receive the full dose of this powerful therapy.

With potentially terrible consequences.  Which we will explore in future posts.

2: Today, we will look at one of the many advantages which sleep provides our brains: memory, which is “especially impressive, and particularly well understood,” according to Matthew.  “Sleep has proven itself time and again as a memory aid: both before learning, to prepare your brain for initially making new memories, and after learning, to cement those memories and prevent forgetting.”

While we are awake, our brains are continually acquiring and absorbing new information.  For fact-based information which involves memorizing information like someone’s name, a new phone number, or where we parked your car, a region of our brain called the hippocampus helps collect our experiences and binds the details together.  It provides “a short-term reservoir, or temporary information store, for accumulating new memories.”

There is a problem, however.  

Our hippocampus has a limited storage capacity similar to a USB memory stick.  When we exceed its limit, we “run the risk of not being able to add more information or, equally bad, overwriting one memory with another,” Matthew explains.

Our brains solve this quandary through the magic of sleep which refreshes its ability to make new memories. 

3: Matthew and his colleagues proved this hypotheses by running an experiment involving daytime naps.  “We recruited a group of healthy young adults and randomly divided them into a nap group and a no-nap group,” he writes.  “At noon, all the participants underwent a rigorous session of learning (one hundred face-name pairs) intended to tax the hippocampus.

“As expected, both groups performed at comparable levels.  Soon after, the nap group took a ninety-minute siesta in the sleep laboratory with electrodes placed on their heads to measure sleep.  The no-nap group stayed awake in the laboratory and performed menial activities, such as browsing the Internet or playing board games,” notes Matthew.  

At six p.m., the researchers had all of the participants perform “another round of intensive learning where they tried to cram yet another set of new facts into their short-term storage reservoirs (another one hundred face-name pairs).”

The question was straight-forward.  Would the learning ability of the human brain decline with continued time throughout the day.  And, if so, would sleep reverse this saturation effect thereby restoring the brain’s learning ability?

The results?

“Those who were awake throughout the day became progressively worse at learning, even though their ability to concentrate remained stable (determined by separate attention and response time tests), Matthew reports.  “In contrast, those who napped did markedly better, and actually improved in their capacity to memorize facts.”

Those who took a nap had a 20 percent learning advantage. 

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Am I getting enough sleep?  Do I prioritize sleep?    

Action: Track my sleep over the next two weeks, using a Fitbit, Oura ring, or by manually tracking. 

Freedom?  Structure?  Or both?

Getting better at getting better is what RiseWithDrew is all about.

Monday through Thursday we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations.  On Friday, I share something we are doing at PCI in our quest to earn a spot of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For. 

There is freedom within structure.  Structure provides a framework within which we can be creative.

At PCI, we use the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS as a framework to build and manage our organization.  The structure of EOS provides the guardrails or guideposts within which we have tremendous freedom to build a great and lasting organization. 

Each step described below is discussed and decided upon by the entire leadership team as part of implementing EOS.  Then, we review and update it every year as part of our annual planning process.  Some EOS companies utilize an EOS Implementer.  Others facilitate themselves.

The process begins by outlining the organization’s core values, purpose, and niche, or target market.  These elements provide the foundation on which the organization is built.

Next is the 10-year vision.  At PCI, our 10-year vision or BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) is to earn a spot on Fortune magazine’s Best Company to Work for in the world.  This ten-year vision is a statement of PCI’s business strategy: Happy associates = Happy clients.  It is also the North Star to which we look when we make decisions: Does this action bring us closer to that vision?  Does this person we are hiring move us toward that vision?

The next step is our 3-year picture.  The idea is to create a vivid picture of what our business will look like in three years.  The goal is to stretch the thinking of the team about what is possible.  The objective is to articulate a future that is at the very edge of what can be done.  One more inch and everyone would say, “That’s too far.  We could never do that.” 

There is power in writing down our goals.  The 3-Year Picture helps each member of the leadership team see where the organization is headed and decide if they want to be part of the adventure ahead. 

The 3-year picture includes a forecast for revenue and profit three years out as well as a list of 10-20 important actions the organization will achieve.  Once the leadership team has created the 3-year vision, EOS encourages teams to close their eyes and have one person read it out loud so everyone hears it, understands it, and can visualize it.

At PCI, we articulated a 3-year vision last year that included growing from $53 million in revenue to $100 million.  That’s a true stretch goal for us.  Simply doing “business as usual” is not an option.  Achieving that goal requires new approaches and new ideas.  Which is the point.   

Next up is the 1-year plan.  Unlike the 3-year picture, this exercise is not about stretching.  It is a prediction.  It is a plan.  THE plan for the coming year.  The leadership team and the entire organization are committed to making this plan a reality. 

The 1-year plan includes a forecast for revenue and profit as well as other key metrics.  These performance indicators will vary by organization.  In our case, we predict contracts signed, projects started, on-time delivery percentage, Net Promoter Score, and number of associates.

We also select five goals for the year which we call “boulders” or big rocks.  These are the most important projects we will accomplish in the coming year.  These boulders help us achieve our 1-year plan, 3-year picture, and 10-year vision. 

Then, each quarter our leadership team meets to decide on the objectives or rocks for the upcoming 90-day period.  Once again, we forecast all the metrics mentioned above, but this time for the upcoming quarter.  We also select five “rocks” or key projects we will complete.  Each rock is “owned” by one member of the leadership team.

We share our plan for the upcoming quarter with the entire organization as part of our Quarterly Business Meeting.  Once every 90 days we gather all associates together and discuss where we are headed as an organization.

The final piece of the EOS structure is the weekly Level 10 (L10) meeting.  Every week our leadership team meets and reviews where we stand on our metrics and rocks and discusses open issues.

EOS.  Freedom within a structure.  Creativity within a framework.


Reflection: Do I lean toward structure or freedom?  How might I incorporate both?

Action:  Journal about my ideas on the questions above.

Default Setting: Open

New York state began requiring hospitals to post death rates from coronary artery bypass surgeries.  

Over the next four years, deaths from heart surgery fell 41%, Laszlo Bock recounts in his book Work Rules! about his time as Google’s Chief People Operations Officer.

Making performance transparent transformed patient outcomes.  

Transparency also transforms business outcomes.  At Google, the “default setting” is sharing all information with all Googlers.  That’s the starting point.  There needs to be a business reason not to share.  

“We share everything and trust Googlers to keep the information confidential,” writes Lazslo.

For software companies, their code base or source code contains the secrets for how their algorithms and products work.  At Google, new engineers get access to almost all of Google’s code on their first day of work. 

Each week, Google hosts a weekly TGIF meeting and invites the entire company.  The most important agenda item is a 30-minutes of Q&A when top leadership fields questions from anyone in company.

Former Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt would share the same presentation he had delivered to the board of directors’ just days before.

Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, takes it a step further:  every meeting is recorded and made available to all employees.  Bridgewater’s founder, Ray Dalio, explains: “My most important principle is that getting at the truth… is essential for getting better. We get at truth through radical transparency and putting aside our ego barriers in order to explore our mistakes and personal weaknesses so that we can improve.” 

At most organizations, it’s the reverse.  Information isn’t shared unless there is a reason to do so.   

The assumption is secrecy. 

The benefit of so much openness?

Everyone in the organization knows what is going on.


Reflection:  What is my organization’s current view around transparency and sharing information?

Action:  Identify an area where I could share more information with my team.  Share it.

Why video is the true “killer app”

Question: If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many pictures is a video worth?

A lot.  We live in a video world.  More than 1.3 billion people use YouTube.  Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day.  The total number of hours of video watched every month?  3.25 billion.  

And video isn’t just for personal use.  More than 9% of U.S. small businesses use YouTube.  “Business leaders are increasingly relying on video to disseminate their transformational stories across the organization,” Carmine Gallo writes in The Storyteller’s Secret.

“Video has become an essential component of delivering a story. Successful storytellers embrace the medium in a personable, friendly style that makes the viewer feel as though they’re having a one-on-one conversation with the speaker.”

Being comfortable being on camera is a skill.  Something we can get better at with practice, says Food Network star and New York Times best-selling author Giada De Laurentiis

“When I did Everyday Italian for the first time, it was a rough show.  I was awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera and I had tons of anxiety,” she remembers.  “It was very humbling.”

Visual contents concept. Social networking service. Streaming video. communication network. 3D illustration.

With time and practice, she improved. “At the end of every day my brother and I would review my performance, which was nerve-racking.  Slowly and surely I became better.”

Video is a storyteller’s friend.  To master the medium, Carmine tells us we are wise to focus on three things: passion, smiles, and conversation.

Passion:  Storytelling, by definition, requires a performance, writes Carmine.  “It’s nearly impossible to be a successful storyteller without passion.  Passion leads to energy and without energy, enthusiasm, and excitement it becomes very difficult to hold an audience’s attention.”

Smiles: “You’d think smiling is easy.  When we’re happy we smile,” Carmine observes.  “Why, then, do most business professionals look like they’re miserable when recording a video?  Smiles are rare on professional business videos, but ubiquitous on the faces of celebrated television personalities. Giada is known for her radiant smile. Remember that storytelling is all about emotion and smiling has been associated with the strongest emotional reaction.”

Conversation: Video is an informal platform.  It rewards a more natural, conversational delivery.  Conversational speakers use short, simple words and make their message clear .

The Storyteller’s Secret? 

Giada’s recipe is worth copying.  Learning to communicate via video is one of our biggest opportunities to connect and persuade.


Reflection:  Am I currently using video as a way to communicate?  If yes, what have I learned?  If not, why not?

Action: Experiment with using passion, smiles, and conversation in my next video.

How “a nanny and a bodyguard” led to Shark Tank

Mark Burnett arrived in Los Angeles on October 18, 1982 with no job, no place to live, and less than $300.  

“A working-class kid from London’s East End with no return ticket,” writes Carmine Gallo in The Storyteller’s Secret.  Mark’s friend Nick picked him up at LAX and brought some good news: a family in Beverly Hills was looking for a nanny.  Mark had an interview that night.

The only problem?

Male nannies were rare in Los Angeles and Mark didn’t have any experience with domestic chores.

What did he have going for him?

He was a former British paratrooper.  It was like “hiring a nanny and a bodyguard at the same time,” he told the family.

Mark got the job. Which led to contacts and opportunities in the television business. In time, he would become one of the most successful producers in history, creating and producing SurvivorThe Voice, and Shark Tank

What was it about Mark’s “pitch” that persuaded the family to hire him as their nanny despite not having any experience?

He was “a nanny and a bodyguard.”  A textbook example of the power of metaphor.   

A metaphor is something that stands for or symbolizes another thing in order to show or suggest they are similar. Metaphors are one of our most powerful narrative devices.  “We often think and explain our feelings in metaphor,” Carmine observes.  

Have we ever suffered from a “broken heart”?  Or found ourselves “swimming in paperwork”?  Have we ever said, “All the world’s a stage”? Or heard someone say a chip is the “brain” of a computer?

Metaphors bring “clarity to abstraction,” writes Carmine.  Metaphors make it easier to understand the specific benefits of a product or person. 

Skilled communicators “experiment with every rhetorical device at their disposal, and often become expert at using the building blocks of narrative—analogy and metaphor,” Carmine observes.

Case study #1: Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech. Examples include:

“Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” 

“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” 

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Storyteller’s Secret?  Metaphors turn the abstract into something concrete.  


Reflection: Think about how I can use metaphors in my next presentation.

Action:  Deliver it.

How a red backpack helped create the world’s youngest self-made billionaire

1: Every time Sara Blakely put on white pants that hung in her closet, she didn’t like what she saw in the mirror.  
Traditional women’s undergarments didn’t help.  They felt “uncomfortable and unsightly,” Carmine Gallo writes in The Storyteller’s Secret.

Then, inspiration struck.  Sara got out a pair of scissors and cut the feet from a pair of pantyhose.  

Voila.  Problem solved.

Sara was selling fax machines door-to-door at the time.  She had never taken a business class.  Still, she was convinced she could turn her invention into a business. 

One day, a buyer at Neiman Marcus agreed to meet with her.  Sara “left her Atlanta apartment, which had doubled as her factory and global headquarters, carried a red backpack that held her samples, and boarded a plane to Dallas,” writes Carmine.

Sara had 10-minutes to make her pitch, the buyer told her.  As soon as she started, she felt the buyer was losing interest.

“Then the light switch flicked on.  She would demo the product herself, explaining her product through her own story.  She dragged the buyer into the bathroom, where she modeled the product, and sure enough the buyer agreed to stock Sara’s footless pantyhose in seven stores.

2: “Twelve years later Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, appeared on the cover of Forbes as the youngest self-made billionaire in the world,” writes Carmine.

Sara sold 10 million products without spending a dollar on advertising.  Instead, she capitalized on her personal story to make her product “relatable and irresistible.” 

Sara invented a product.  Sold it in a department store.  And made a fortune.

While the preceding paragraph is a “story,” it fails to draw us in.  It certainly doesn’t inspire.

What’s missing?  Struggle, conflict, and resolution.

And details.

“Sara didn’t just bring her samples to Dallas, she carried them in a red backpack,” Carmine observes.  She “didn’t just pitch a buyer.  She dragged a buyer at Neiman Marcus into the bathroom to demonstrate how the footless pantyhose looked.”

3: Generalities don’t motivate us to take action.  Why?  Our brains aren’t good at processing abstractions.  

“Specifics add credibility to the story and transport the listener” into the world of the presenter, writes Carmine.

When we hear or read about sights, sounds, tastes, and movements, our brains make vivid mental simulations as if we are experiencing what is happening in real life, says Professor Jeffrey Zachs of Washington University.  

“The more detailed the description, the more vivid and evocative the story, the more deeply it sears itself into the listener’s brain,” Carmine writes.

The Storyteller’s Secret?

Stories which are rich in detail “fire up our collective imagination” and “breathe life into products and ideas,” Carmine observes.  “Leaders inspire movements and they do so with stories that provide specific, tangible, and concrete details.”

More tomorrow.


Reflection: Think about what details I can add to a story to help bring it to life during my next presentation.

Action:  Add them.  Deliver it.

When does 1 + 1 = 3?

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.  Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.  Michael Eisner and Frank Wells.  Many uber-successful organizations have been led by two leaders whose skill sets and talents strengthen and complement each other. 

This “ying and yang” approach to organizational leadership is at the heart of the Entrepreneurial Operating System or EOS, a framework for building and operating a business.  

Getting better at getting better is what Rise With Drew is all about.  Monday through Thursday we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations.  On Friday, I share something we are doing at PCI in our quest to earn a spot of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

For the past four years, PCI has operated using the EOS framework.  Adopting EOS is one of the best decisions we have ever made.  It has been a significant contributor to the explosive growth and success we have experienced.

With EOS, organizational leadership is divided into two roles: the Visionary and the Integrator.

The Visionary’s passion, drive, and creativity are essential to launching the business and fueling its growth.  Often times, the Visionary is the original entrepreneur.  “A Visionary is a person who has lots of ideas, is a strategic thinker, always sees the big picture, has a pulse on [the] industry, connects the dots, and researches and develops new products and services,” writes EOS founder Gino Wickman in What is a Visionary?

Visionaries are the “dreamers” in the organization, writes Mike Paton in his article Visionaries and Integrators: Why both are essential . A Visionary is that person who is always coming up with a list of ideas every week for the business, and who is a natural creative problem-solver. Visionaries tend to operate more on emotion than on logic and strongly value the company culture.”

There is, however, a downside to this personality type.

“Unfortunately, he or she also can create chaos, has limited patience for details, gets distracted by shiny stuff, and wants to implement every single one of his or her ideas immediately,” states Dean Breyley in Visionary & Integrator: the ultimate dynamic duo.

This approach can lead to confusion inside the organization.  The answer?  Combine the Visionary’s talent set with that of the Integrator.

“An Integrator is the person who thrives on putting systems and processes in place to bring order to the chaos.  He or she is a great taskmaster and manager, is good at holding people accountable, creating consistency, and integrating the leadership team,” Dean writes.

The Integrator excels at problem solving.  This role integrates the three major functions of the business – Sales and Marketing, Operations, and Finance – “into one harmonious group.”  The Integrator is the glue that keeps the team together.

“Visionaries offer Integrators a creative insight to the business, while Integrators provide the logical and structured approach that is also needed,” writes Mike.  

The “genius” of this structure is it frees up the energy and creativity of both people so each is able to focus on their strengths and where they like to spend their time.

The downside of this structure is if each person is pulling in a different direction.  Hence, it is critical that the two leaders agree on the vision for the organization and the strategy and tactics to achieve that vision.

One important EOS tool is the monthly “Same Page Meeting” where the Visionary and the Integrator meet for two hours.  The meeting is designed to eliminate needless indecision and dysfunction within the leadership team and throughout the organization.  When the two leaders are on the same page, everyone is able to focus their energy on achieving metrics, completing objectives, keeping clients and associates happy, and solving issues.

This “same page meeting” is one of my favorite times of the month.


Reflection: How might the EOS framework help my organization or team?

Action: Spend some time investigating EOS.  Share what I learn with others in my organization.

What’s the good news about global health?

1: This week we’ve been exploring the incredible medical advances against infectious diseases and the incredible increase in human health. Yesterday we looked at diseases which have been eradicated or are on the verge of eradication, including small pox, rinderpest, polio, elephantiasis, river blindness, and blinding trachoma.

But there’s more good news.

“Even diseases that are not obliterated are being decimated,” writes Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now. “Between 2000 and 2015, the number of deaths from malaria (which in the past killed half the people who had ever lived) fell by 60 percent. The World Health Organization has adopted a plan to reduce the rate by another 90 percent by 2030… The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has adopted the goal of eradicating it altogether.”

2: In the 1990s the prevalence of HIV/AIDS reversed humanity’s progress in lengthening life spans. “But the tide turned in the next decade, and the global death rate for children was cut in half, emboldening the UN to agree in 2016 to a plan to end the AIDS epidemic (though not necessarily to eradicate the virus) by 2030,” Steven observes.

Beginning in the year 2000, there has been a massive reduction in the number of children dying from the four most lethal infectious diseases, including pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and measles. “In all, the control of infectious disease since 1990 has saved the lives of more than a hundred million children,” writes Steven.

3: As spectacular as the conquest of infectious disease in Europe and America, the continuing advances among the global poor is even more amazing. “Part of the explanation lies in economic development, because a richer world is a healthier world,” Steven observes.

The other driving factor?

“The expanding circle of sympathy, which inspired global leaders such as Bill Gates, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton to make their legacy the health of the poor in distant continents rather than glittering buildings close to home,” Steven notes. “George W. Bush, for his part, has been praised by even his harshest critics for his policy on African AIDS relief, which saved millions of lives.”

The Nobel laureate, Angus Deaton “notes that even the idea that lies at the core of the Enlightenment—knowledge can make us better off–may come as a revelation in the parts of the world where people are resigned to their poor health, never dreaming that changes to their institutions and norms could improve it.”

More from Steven Pinker in weeks to come.


Reflection: Take a moment to be grateful for the advances in medical care and resulting increase in human life

Action: Share this information with a friend or colleague.

Smallpox was.  Past tense.

1: From Wikipedia: “Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor.”

Yes, “smallpox was.”

“The disease that got its name from the painful pustules that cover the victim’s skin, mouth, and eyes and that killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century has ceased to exist,” writes Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.  

The last case was diagnosed in Somalia in 1977.

“For this astounding moral triumph we can thank, among others, Edward Jenner, who discovered vaccination in 1796, the World Health Organization, which in 1959 set the audacious goal of eradicating the disease, and William Foege, who figured out that vaccinating small but strategically chosen portions of the vulnerable populations would do the job,” comments the economist Charles Kenny.

The total, ten-year cost of the program?

$312 million.  Or about 32 cents per person in infected countries.  The equivalent of the cost of the wing of a B-2 bomber.  Talk about a colossal return on investment.

2: “But this stupendous achievement was only the beginning,” Steven observes.  Rinderpest or cattle plague, which starved millions of farmers throughout history by wiping out their livestock?  Was.  Past tense.  

“Polio?  From 350,000 cases in 1988 to less than 1,500 in 2020.  Guinea worm, a three-foot-long parasite for which the only treatment consists of pulling the worm out over several days or weeks?  From 3.5 million in 1986 to just twenty-five cases in 2016.

“Elephantiasis, river blindness, and blinding trachoma, whose symptoms are as bad as they sound, may also be defined in the past tense by 2030,” Steven notes.  “Measles, rubella, yaws, sleeping sickness, and hookworm are in epidemiologist’s’ sights as well.

“And in the most ambitious plan of all, a team of global health experts led by the economists Dean Jamison and Lawrence Summers have laid out a roadmap for “a grand convergence in global health” by 2035, when infectious, maternal, and child deaths everywhere in the world could be reduced to the levels found in the healthiest middle-income countries today,” Steven shares.

3: The most powerful contributor to this string of incredible successes?  Science.  “It is knowledge that is the key,” says Nobel Prize winning economist Angus Deaton.  

The benefits of science are not “just high-tech pharmaceuticals such as vaccines, antibiotics, antiretrovirals, and deworming pills,” Steven writes.  “They also comprise ideas; ideas that may be cheap to implement and obvious in retrospect, but which save millions of lives.”  

Many of the health-related breakthroughs over the past decades are decidedly “low tech” and relatively inexpensive.  Millions of lives have been saved as a result.

Ideas like “boiling, filtering, or adding bleach to water; washing hands; giving iodine supplements to pregnant women; breast-feeding and cuddling infants; defecating in latrines rather than in fields, streets, and waterways; protecting sleeping children with insecticide-impregnated bed nets; and treating diarrhea with a solution of salt and sugar in clean water,” notes Steven.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Take a moment to be grateful for the advances in medical care and resulting increase in human life.    

 Action:  Share this information with a friend or colleague.

Scientists as superheroes?

1: On April 12, 1955, a team of scientists declared Jonas Salk’s vaccine against polio, a disease which killed thousands each year, paralyzed President Franklin Roosevelt, and sent many children into iron lungs, had been proven safe.  

“People observed moments of silence, rang bells, honked horns, blew factory whistles, fired salutes, . . . took the rest of the day off, closed their schools or convoked fervid assemblies therein, drank toasts, hugged children, attended church, smiled at strangers, and forgave enemies,” Richard Carter states in Steven Pinker‘s Enlightenment Now.  

New York City proposed honoring Jonas with a ticker-tape parade, which he politely declined.

2: “When I was a boy,” writes Steven, “a popular literary genre for children was the heroic biography of a medical pioneer such as Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Joseph Lister, Frederick Banting, Charles Best, William Osler, or Alexander Fleming.”

How much thought have we given lately to Karl Landsteiner? Steven asks.  

“Karl who? He only saved a billion lives by his discovery of blood groups,” he writes.

What about Abel Wolman and Linn Enslow who discovered chlorination of water, saving an estimated 177 million lives?  

Or William Foege who’s smallpox eradication strategy has saved 131 million lives?  What about Maurice Hilleman who’s discovery of eight vaccines saved an estimated 129 million lives?  Or John Enders and the measles vaccine which has saved 120 million lives?

Researchers have identified one hundred or so scientists who collectively have saved more than five billion lives.  So far.

3: “Of course hero stories don’t do justice to the way science is really done,” writes Steven.  “Scientists stand on the shoulders of giants, collaborate in teams, toil in obscurity, and aggregate ideas across worldwide webs.”

Steven’s point?  We take so much for granted in our modern world.  

“Whether it’s the scientists or the science that is ignored, the neglect of the discoveries that transformed life for the better is an indictment of our appreciation of the modern human condition,” Steven states.

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  Take a moment to be grateful for the advances in medical care and resulting increase in human life.     

Action:  Share this information with a friend or colleague.

Wealth and power are no match for what?

1: Many people believe we live in the “worst of times.”  The data shows otherwise.  

Today we continue our exploration of the many and momentous ways life has improved over the past 200 years by looking at our health.  

“For most of human history, the strongest force of death was infectious disease, the nasty feature of evolution in which small, rapidly reproducing organisms make their living at our expense and hitch a ride from body to body in bugs, worms, and bodily effluvia,” writes Steven Pinker in Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

Millions of people died because of epidemics, which wiped out entire civilizations and brought misery to local populations.  One example?  Yellow fever, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, was named because its victims turned yellow before dying in misery.

Steven shares an account of an 1878 epidemic in Memphis, where those infected by yellow fever “crawled into holes twisted out of shape, their bodies discovered later only by the stench of their decaying flesh. . . . [A mother was found dead] with her body sprawled across the bed . . . black vomit like coffee grounds spattered all over . . . the children rolling on the floor, groaning.”

Wealth provided no protection against infectious disease: The wealthiest man in the world, Nathan Mayer Rothschild, died of an infected abscess, in 1836.

Nor did power: different British monarchs died from dysentery, smallpox, pneumonia, typhoid, tuberculosis, and malaria.  

American presidents were not immune: William Henry Harrison died of septic shock in 1841, thirty-one days after his inauguration.  James Polk died from cholera three months after leaving office in 1849.  In 1924, the sixteen-year-old son of a sitting president, Calvin Coolidge Jr., died of an infected blister he got while playing tennis.

2: “But starting in the late 18th century with the invention of vaccination, and accelerating in the 19th with acceptance of the germ theory of disease, the tide of battle began to turn,” Steven writes.  “Handwashing, midwifery, mosquito control, and especially the protection of drinking water by public sewerage and chlorinated tap water would come to save billions of lives.

“Before the 20th century, cities were piled high in excrement, their rivers and lakes viscous with waste, and their residents drinking and washing their clothes in putrid brown liquid,” Steven notes.

Then, in 1854, John Snow figured out that cholera-stricken Londoners were getting their drinking water from a pipe that was downstream from an outflow of sewage.  His findings brought about changes to the water and waste systems of London, which led to changes in other cities and an overall significant improvement of public health around the world.

3: The other silent killer?  Medical care itself.

Prior to the discovery of anesthesia, antisepsis, and blood transfusions, “surgery was a source of torture and mutilation as opposed to a cure,” Steven writes.

“Doctors themselves used to be a major health hazard as they went from autopsy to examining room in black coats encrusted with dried blood and pus, probed their patients’ wounds with unwashed hands, and sewed them up with sutures they kept in their buttonholes,” Steven writes.  

Then, Ignaz Semmelweis and Joseph Lister proved the importance of sterilizing hands and equipment.  The world would truly never be the same.  Doctors and nurses were transformed from taking lives to saving lives.   

More tomorrow.


Reflection: Take a moment to be grateful for the advances in medical care and resulting increase in human life.     

Action:  Share this information with a friend or colleague.

The secret to a great weekly team meeting

Getting better at getting better is what RiseWithDrew is all about.

Monday through Thursday we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations.  On Friday, I share something we are doing at PCI in our quest to earn a spot of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

As CEO of PCI, I struggled for years to organize an effective and engaging Monday morning weekly leadership team meeting. 

For years, I failed.  At my very best, I would grade my efforts in this area as a B-. 

Then, in November 2017, I learned about EOS or the Entrepreneurial Operating System from a friend.  It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Over lunch he mentioned his firm utilized EOS as a framework to run their company.   I’m always searching for ways our company can get better so I was intrigued.  He suggested I read Get A Grip: How to Get Everything You Want from Your Entrepreneurial Business by EOS founder Gino Wickman and Mike Paton.

I devoured the book. By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, I had finished it.  I often listen to books on Audible or Scribd while I run.  I remember deciding to extend my run another couple of miles so I could listen to more.  This never happens.

Get A Grip is a business fable about an imaginary company.   This genre is difficult to do well.  There are some great books like The Five Dysfunctions of a Team or Leadership and Self Deception but in my experience many of these types of books aren’t great.  

With Get A Grip, it was like the authors were talking directly to me. 

Things happened fast at that point.  My friend connected me with Mark Winters , who is an EOS Implementer.  Companies who utilize EOS can implement the framework themselves or hire a certified EOS Implementer who works with the company’s leadership team to coach, train, and facilitate. 

Based on my friend’s recommendation, we chose the latter path.  A few weeks later, Mark met with our team.  We signed on the dotted line and off we went.

As EOS Implementer helps install the framework over the course of three months.  Once EOS is in place, the Implementer then meets with the company’s leadership team quarterly: once for two-day annual planning session and then every 90-days for a full day to review the prior quarter and plan for the upcoming quarter.

The quarterly meeting rhythm works really well to keep the leadership team both focused on the bigger picture and the immediate priorities.  

That said, my favorite part about EOS is our Weekly L10 leadership team meeting.  L10 stands for “Level 10” because all members of the team rank the meeting on a 1-10 scale at the end of the meeting.  The goal: all 10’s.  Which happens regularly.  Again, a happy surprise to me given our past experiences with a weekly team meeting.

The agenda for the L10 is quite straight-forward:

*Good News (5 minutes) – each member of the team shares something positive from their personal and professional lives.  At PCI, we modify the language slightly to share something that’s on our “hearts and minds.”  (Thank you, Andy Fleming)

*Scorecard/KPIs (5 minutes) – the team reviews the key metrics for the prior week.  We maintain a table so we can see how the current week compares to prior weeks.  If we are at or above our goal, the number shows as green.  Otherwise, it shows as red. 

*Objectives/Rocks Review (5 minutes): We report if we are “on track” or “off track” against our 3-5 company objectives or rocks, which the team selected at the prior quarter’s EOS meeting.  Then, each team member reports if they are “on track” or “off track” against 1-3 individual rocks which each person selects and are agreed to by the team at the quarterly meeting.

*Client/Associate Headlines (5 minutes): This practice keeps everyone on the team up-to-date on what is happening around the company.  I also ask each member of our team to select at least one person from their department who has done outstanding work the prior week.  As CEO, this is a great way to learn about who is doing great work so I can recognize them at our daily stand-up meeting.

*To do list (5 minutes): We review the to do list from the prior’s week’s meeting.

*IDS (60 minutes): IDS stands for Identify, Discuss, and Solve.  This agenda item is the key to why the L10 meeting works so well.  Each week we set aside an hour to discuss the most important issues impacting the company that week.  

At the start of IDS, the team quickly selects the top three issues to discuss from a list of outstanding issues from the prior week plus any new issues that have arisen during the earlier agenda items.  

For example, if one of our weekly metrics is “red” or below goal, the metric goes on the IDS issue list if there is an opportunity to discuss what we need to do as a team to fix the issue.  

Note:  we do not discuss the issue during the Scorecard part of the agenda.  Rather, we decide whether it is an issue to discuss during IDS and then we add it to the issue list.  In my past experience, discussing each metric while reporting them is one way team meetings go off track.  This method works much better because we have time set aside later in the meeting. Then we discuss the most important issues that week.

The same protocol applies to the quarterly objectives or rocks.  We don’t discuss each rock each week.  Instead, the person who “owns” the rock reports if it is “on track” or “off track.”  If the rock is off track, anyone on the team can choose to make it an issue.  If so, it goes on the issue list where it fights for “air time” based on its importance during the IDS section of the meeting.

For each issue that is discussed during IDS, the person who put the issue on the list begins by sharing “W-W-OW” – which stands for “who, who, one word: who is bringing the issue, who are they addressing (one person or the entire team), and one word, i.e. I need a decision, a commitment, feedback or input, or to tell you something.  

We keep a timekeeper who tracks how long it takes to discuss each issue.  Some issues are discussed and resolved quickly.  Others require more time.  On average, it’s about six to seven minutes per issue.

The great thing about IDS is it creates consistent time for the team to discuss the most important issues that week, where people are stuck, where a decision is needed, etc.  

The result is a much more nimble, informed, and engaged organization.


Reflection:  How would I rate my organization’s or team’s weekly staff meeting?  Is there anything we could apply from EOS?

Action:  Discuss at my next team meeting.

What’s the difference between service and hospitality?

Restaurateur Danny Meyer opened Union Square Cafe in New York City when he was just 27 years old.  It was his first restaurant.  He had invested all of his savings and had raised money from friends and family to make his dream a reality.

Naturally, he was sensitive to restaurant reviews.

“I still remember a review in a column called ‘The Restaurant Rotator,’ he recalls in his book Setting the Table.  “The writer, who called herself The Rotator, compared her dining experience at Union Square Cafe to being served by the Stepford wives.  I had to look up the reference; at the time, I didn’t know what she meant.  She apparently found it objectionable and disingenuous that we were hiring naturally friendly people and allowing their personalities to shine through in the dining room. This cynical review stung me, but it didn’t hurt the restaurant or in any way change the way I chose to do business.”


Because “I had already learned that the trick to delivering superior hospitality was to hire genuine, happy, optimistic people,” Danny writes.

Yesterday, we looked at Danny’s business strategy which is focused on hospitality.  Today, we explore the difference between “hospitality” and “service.”

Understanding this distinction has been at the foundation of his success, Danny believes.

“It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top,” Danny observes.  “Service is the technical delivery of a product.  Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel.”

So what exactly is service?

“When you are seated at the precise time of your reservation at the exact table and with the waiter you requested, that is a reflection of good service,” Danny observes. “When the right food is delivered to the right person at the right table at the right temperature at the right time—that’s service.  When you see a member of the wait staff decanting a bottle of wine with care and grace, that’s service.  When your empty plate is cleared from the table in a graceful manner, that too is service.  When, in answer to your question, the waiter can explain the nuances of the wines on our list, that’s service.”  

Service is how an organization decides to do things and what standards are set.  Service is a monologue.  

“Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue.  To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response,” Danny writes.  “Hospitality, which most distinguishes our restaurants—and ultimately any business—is the sum of all the thoughtful, caring, gracious things our staff does to make you feel we are on your side when you are dining with us.”

Service without hospitality can feel clinical.  Danny references The Ritz-Carlton hotels which he believes are “deservedly famous” for the high level of service they provide to their guests.  

Yet… “as a guest there, I have occasionally sensed a rote quality in the process, when every employee responds with exactly the same phrase, ‘My pleasure,’ to anything guests ask or say.  Hearing “My pleasure” over and over again can get rather creepy after a while. It’s like hearing a flight attendant chirp “Bye now!” and “Bye-bye!” 200 times as passengers disembark from an airplane.”  

Hospitality, by contrast, is a two-way relationship.  “I instruct my staff members to figure out whatever it takes to make the guests feel and understand that we are in their corner,” Danny writes.  

There is a lesson here for all of us.  Delivering a high-level of “service” to our clients is obviously key to organizational success.  But there is a higher standard: hospitality where our clients feel truly cared for.


Reflection:  How might my organization deliver “hospitality” in addition to a high level of “service”?

Action: Discuss with a colleague or at my next team meeting.

How to have fun taking service seriously

1: “Location, location, location.”  

That was the advice then aspiring restaurateur Danny Meyer was given when selecting a space for his restaurant in New York City.  “This is the idea that you somehow need an upscale address to be considered a great restaurant,” Danny writes in Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.  “Back then, an excellent restaurant was too often confused with an expensive restaurant.”

The year was 1985.  It was “the first blast of the ‘masters of the universe‘ culture.  There was a combination of abundant money floating around and a lingering effect of the velvet rope at Studio 54: the more expensive or exclusive something was, the more coveted it became,” Danny remembers.

Danny had a different vision for his restaurant.  He chose a location, Union Square, which at the time was rundown. “There was a seedy-by-day, dangerous-by-night feel to the area,” he remembers.

Danny put less value on a fancy location.  Instead his strategy was to focus on hospitality.

“Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy,” writes Danny.  “Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction.  Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side.” 

2: His idea was to offer first-class dining in a setting of “down-to-earth comfort,” Danny explains.  “To combine the best elements of fine dining with accessibility—in other words, with open arms.  This was once a radical concept in my business, where excellent cuisine was almost always paired with stiff arm’s-length service.”

“There’s aesthetic value in doing things the right way,” Danny reflects.  “But I respond best when the person doing those things realizes that the purpose of all this beauty at the table is to create pleasure for me…  It’s about soul—and service without soul, no matter how elegant, is quickly forgotten by the guest.”

3: Today, Danny is the Founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny and his team have created some of New York’s most beloved restaurants, cafes, and bars (currently 18 venues).  

His approach to business was impacted by visits to France as a child and young adult.  “Those trips left a lasting impression.  The hug that came with the food made it taste even better!  That realization would gradually evolve into my own well-defined business strategy—the core of which is hospitality, or being on the guests’ side.”

Everywhere he went, Danny kept a diary about food and restaurants: “Beyond describing dishes I had loved, the journal entries included notes and sketches for lighting fixtures, menus, architecture, flooring, and seating plans, and—tellingly—notes about how I felt treated wherever I slept or dined.”  

Danny had an epiphany when he and his wife made their first visit to Taillevent, a Michelin three-star restaurant located in Paris.  “The seamless service and exquisite hospitality were superior to anything I had ever experienced, and the polished staff members also possessed a confident sense of humor about themselves while providing pleasure for the guest.”

What stood out in addition to the “ethereally good food”?  It was a fun experience, Danny explains.

“It is no coincidence that Taillevent has maintained its three-star rating for more than three decades,” he writes.  “If there’s a better restaurateur in the world than Taillevent’s Jean-Claude Vrinat (whose father created the restaurant), I have yet to meet him or her.  Self-deprecating to a fault, Monsieur Vrinat brushed off my gratitude for an evening of perfect service. 

“We have fun taking service seriously,” the chef told Danny.  “And as for perfection, we just hide our mistakes better than anyone else!” 

More tomorrow.


Reflection: In my industry or occupation, where is there an opportunity to ignore something other competitors value highly? And, highly value something which competitors do not?

Action:  Journal about it.

The secret to creating high performing teams

1: “When I first walk into any restaurant or any business,” acclaimed restauranteur Danny Meyer writes in his terrific book Setting the Table, “I can immediately guess what type of experience I’m in for by sensing whether the staff members appear to be focused on their work, supportive of one another, and enjoying one another’s company.  If they are out to help one another succeed, I know I stand an excellent chance of having an excellent experience accompanied by a feeling of welcome.”

As the Founder and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, Danny and his team have created some of New York’s most beloved restaurants, cafes, and bars (currently 18 venues).  He is also the creator of Shake Shack, which now has more than 250 locations all over the world.

Yesterday, we explored Danny’s business philosophy which intentionally puts the interests of his team members above all other stakeholders.  Including his clients. 

Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant kitchen understands the difficult working conditions: when “the kitchen is hot, with up to thirty people racing around while performing tough tasks in tight quarters. It’s tense,” Danny observes.

2: The secret to building a high performing team?

It starts with mutual trust and respect.  Which Danny believes are “the most powerful tools for building an energetic, motivated, winning team in any field…  The primary reason we have such a loyal and dedicated staff (in a fickle industry notorious for high turnover), is that we understand what people want most from their workplace is to respect and be respected.  And it certainly helps to know that their honest day’s work—mistakes and all—is appreciated.”

What happens when a workplace is high on trust and respect?

“People are continually looking for opportunities to help one another,” writes Danny.  “That infectious spirit becomes the culture.  That reciprocally uplifting feeling then translates into a better product because managers help waiters, waiters help cooks, cooks help waiters, and cooks help cooks.”

What does Danny believe is the key to being a great place to work?

“It is the value of the human experience we have with our colleagues—what we learn from one another, how much fun we have working together, and how much mutual respect and trust we share—that has the greatest influence on job satisfaction.

3: In Setting the Table, Danny outlines one of the unique benefits of working at one of his restaurants: “We conduct a monthly dining-voucher program for all staff members with at least three months’ tenure that allows them to dine at any of our restaurants using a credit.”  

This benefit also is a strategic choice,  he explains: “The catch is that in exchange for the credit, employees must answer a detailed questionnaire about their dining experience.”

Experiencing the restaurant as a client creates a heightened sense of what great service looks like: “They are expert at observing their colleagues in the dining room, tasting the food they know so well, and assessing the restaurant’s overall performance,” Danny writes.  “Above all, the program sends our own team a crucial message: ‘We respect, trust, and care enough about you to actively seek and value your input.'”

More tomorrow.


Reflection:  How would I describe my organization’s workplace culture?  Are any of Danny’s ideas or practices worth exploring further?  

Action:  Discuss with a colleague or at my next team meeting.

The upside down logic of business success

1: We never know when inspiration will strike or where it will come from.  

“I can’t believe I’m doing this LSAT thing tomorrow. I don’t even want to be a lawyer,” Danny Meyer told his uncle.  He was 25 years old and having dinner with his family at Elio’s restaurant in New York City.

“So why are you?” his uncle replied in an exasperated tone. “You know you don’t want to be a lawyer.  Why don’t you just do what you’ve been thinking about doing your whole life?” 

“What’s that?” Danny asked. 

“What do you mean, ‘What’s that’? Since you were a child, all you’ve ever talked or thought about is food and restaurants. Why don’t you just open a restaurant?” 

The idea felt “both foreign and like an absolute bull’s-eye,” Danny remembers in his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.

Danny never applied to law school.  Instead, two years later he opened Union Square Cafe, which has been ranked eight times as “Favorite New York Restaurant” by the Zagat Survey.

Danny’s success as a restaurateur is legendary.  He’s “opened and operated five white-tablecloth restaurants; an urban barbecue joint; a feel-good jazz club; a neo-roadside stand selling frozen custard, burgers, and hot dogs; three modern museum cafés; and an off-premises, restaurant-quality catering company.” The roadside stand? Shake Shack.

2: To what does Danny attribute his success?

“Enlightened hospitality.”  Which is a way of setting priorities that turns traditional business approaches on their head.  

“Prioritizing,” Danny explains, “in the following order is the guiding principal for practically every decision we make, and it has made the single greatest contribution to the ongoing success of our company:” 

Our employees 

Our guests 

Our community 

Our suppliers 

Our investors

3: The bottom line?  Danny doesn’t focus on the bottom line first.  

“I place the interests of our investors fifth, but not because I don’t want to earn a lot of money. On the contrary, I staunchly believe that standing conventional business priorities on their head ultimately leads to even greater, more enduring financial success,” Danny explains.  

His model begins with focusing on the associates who deliver the highest level of service: “The interests of our own employees must be placed directly ahead of those of our guests because the only way we can consistently earn raves, win repeat business, and develop bonds of loyalty with our guests is first to ensure that our own team members feel jazzed about coming to work.” 

Team members who are “jazzed” about their work are more likely to deliver the highest level of service and connect with restaurant guests in a meaningful way.  

“Enlightened hospitality is a business model designed for long-term, sustained profitability,” Danny writes.  “To prioritize differently breaks the virtuous cycle of enlightened hospitality and seriously compromises the chances that your business will achieve excellence, success, good will, and soul.”

What’s at the heart of Danny’s philosophy of business? 

“In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships,” says Danny.  “Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel.  It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Much more about Danny Meyer this week. 


Reflection:  Force rank how we currently prioritize the five stakeholders listed above in our organization.   

Action:  Discuss with a colleague or at a team meeting.  Today.

How business can help heal racial division

1: Getting better at getting better is what RiseWithDrew is all about.

Monday through Thursday we explore ideas from authors, thought leaders, and exemplary organizations.  On Friday, I share something we are doing at PCI in our quest to earn a spot of Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Last Friday, we looked at a recent panel discussion on Zoom with four of our Black leaders.  At PCI, we pride ourselves on having a highly diverse workforce.  The discussion was part of our ongoing Meaningful Conversations Series focusing on social justice.

The origin of this event dates back more than a year.  In May of 2020, Lori Bishop, our Chief People Officer at PCI reached out to me and shared that our Black associates, specifically our Black men, were going through a difficult time.  

On a Sunday afternoon in February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year old black man, went out for a run in his neighborhood.  He was murdered by two white men in a pickup truck.  The incident was the latest in a series of killings of young Black men involving law enforcement or vigilantes.

At her suggestion, I reached out to a group of our Black male leaders and set up a meeting for the following week.  I had worked with the seven men on the call but this was the first time we had ever talked about race, racism, or prejudice.  The goal was simply to create some space for them to share what they were experiencing in the wake of these tragic killings. 

Talk about an eye-opener.

As I listened to each person describe their experience growing up Black in America, I was not prepared for the frustration, fear, bitterness, anger, and sadness that was expressed.  

As a white kid from the suburbs, my experience was so different from what they described.  Listening to each of these men talk, I experienced firsthand what it feels like to see something from a completely different perspective.  It was a meaningful and powerful experience for me.

2: The next week, George Floyd was murdered.

We met again.  Once again, each man was given space to talk about what and how they were feeling.  The tone of the meeting was raw, unvarnished.  There was bitterness and fear.  As well as gratitude.  For the opportunity to share.  To be together.  

We talked about holding a meeting open to all PCI associates.  This became our first company-wide Meaningful Conversation.  

More than 250 of our associates participated.  

Our theme for 2020 was “Trust: the one thing that changes everything.”  Working with our Chief People Officer, we anchored the meeting around the idea of trust, being trustworthy, and building trusting relationships at work.  

I opened the meeting sharing my outrage and anger with what had occurred.  We used the “breakout rooms” feature within Zoom to provide people with a small group setting (7-8 people) to share what they were experiencing.  PCI leaders served as moderators.

We established some norms for these conversations, including “Speak from the ‘I’ perspective,” “Listen to understand, not to respond,” “Call each other in, not out,” “Live in the now, not in the hypothetical,” and “Expect & accept a lack of closure.”

The conversations created an opportunity for people to be authentic and connect with others during a very difficult time.  The feedback on the meeting was overwhelmingly positive.  

We held another Meaningful Conversation meeting two weeks later.  This time we introduced our True Trust Vision:  “We are an ever evolving learning organization of dreamers and doers, who have been called to live the lives we were created to live, commanded to LOVE and TRUST beyond the limits of our prejudices, and open our hearts to change.”

At PCI, we have a 25-year history of holding book clubs where we buy a book, bring people together, and discuss it.  This practice is part of our DNA.  

So, leaning on this history, we decided to read and discuss White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo.  We asked our extended leadership team to participate and then opened it up to any other PCI associate who was interested in joining.  About 150 of our associates participated in the five-week discussion.

The idea was to introduce ideas and perspectives to our associates and challenge our thinking.  We organized into groups of ten and had a PCI leader act as moderator and discussion group leader.  I found the material to be startling and challenging.  The discussions were thought-provoking and soul-searching.

As the summer of 2020 turned to fall, we continued to hold a company-wide Meaningful Conversation every month or two, gathering people together, and providing a forum for us at PCI to check in and have further discussions around social injustice issues.  

Last spring, our CEO Council met, discussed, and adopted several of the recommendations put forward by Orvin Kimbrough, CEO at Midwest BankCentre, in his article: Shared Prosperity: Our Corporate Responsibility in a Time of Consternation,  including: a commitment to diverse and inclusive economic environment starts at the top, look outside your network when hiring talent, and commit to supplier diversity. 

This summer we had a second book club where we read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Once again, about 150 of our associates participated.  More compelling, provocative conversations.

3: As a conscious capitalist , I believe for-profit business can play an important role in healing the racial division that plagues us as a nation.  There are of course many facets to these issues, but making progress against the economic disparity  that exists is a critical leverage point to a better future for all of us.

The workplace is also a highly diverse place.  Companies that embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion outperform the competition.  

And, the workplace is where we spend a huge percentage of our time on the planet: shoulder-to-shoulder with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, ages, and worldviews.  While working together to be successful in business, we get to know each other, learn from each other, and gain an appreciation for each other.  

This, I believe, is the ultimate antidote to racism and social injustice.      


Reflection:  How might I benefit from exposing myself to new or different perspectives regarding racial injustice? 

Action:  Have a conversation with someone of a different race or ethnicity.  Seek first to understand, rather than be understood.

What is the largest, most successful habit-changing organization in the world?

1: The year was 1934.  One of the largest and most successful attempts at wide-scale habit change was about to begin.

Bill Wilson, a thirty-nine year old alcoholic, sat in a dreary basement on the Lower East Side of New York City.  He was drinking three bottles of booze a day.  His marriage was falling apart.  His career was at a dead end, Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit.

He poured his old drinking buddy a glass of gin and pineapple juice.  His friend shook his head.  He explained he’d been sober for two months. Bill was astounded.  He had tried to quit, but had repeatedly failed.  “He’s been to detox and had taken pills.  He’d made promises to his wife and joined abstinence groups.  None of it worked,” Charles states. “I got religion,” the friend said. He talked about hell and temptation, sin and the devil. “Realize you are licked, admit it, and get willing to turn your life over to God.” Bill thought his friend had lost it.  “Last summer an alcoholic crackpot, now, I suspected, a little cracked about religion,” he later wrote.  After his friend left, Bill finished the bottle of gin and went to bed.

One month later, Bill checked into a Manhattan detox center.  A doctor gave him hourly injections of a hallucinogenic drug called belladonna, a popular treatment for alcoholism at the time. It didn’t go well.  Bill began writing in agony.  He hallucinated for days.  His withdrawal was so bad he felt insects were crawling across his skin.  He was nauseous and the pain was so intense he couldn’t stay still.

“If there is a God, let Him show Himself!” Bill yelled.  “I am ready to do anything. Anything!”

At that moment, “a white light filled his room, the pain ceased, and he felt as if he were on a mountaintop, ‘and that a wind not of air but of spirit’ was blowing.  And then it burst upon me that I was a free man,'” Bill later wrote.

Bill Wilson would never drink again.  For the rest of his life, he dedicated himself to founding and building Alcoholics Anonymous.  It would become “the largest, most well-known and successful habit-changing organization in the world,” writes Charles.  

As many as 10 million alcoholics have become sober through the group.  While AA doesn’t work for everyone, millions credit the program with saving their lives.  “The famous twelve steps have become cultural lodestones incorporated into treatment programs for overeating, gambling, debt, sex, drugs, hoarding, self-mutilation, smoking, video game addictions, and emotional dependency.”

What’s surprising is that AA doesn’t directly address the biochemical issues researchers believe are at the core of why people drink.  Moreover, there are no “professionals” who guide AA meetings. “What AA provides instead is a method for attacking the habits that surround alcohol use.  AA, in essence, is a giant machine for changing habit loops,” Charles observes.  The AA approach disrupts old routines by changing the “habit loop.” “Researchers say that AA works because the program forces people to identify the cues and rewards that encourage their alcoholic habits, and then helps them find new behaviors.” Step four demands we make “a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.  In step five we admit “to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

What’s going on here?  

“It’s not obvious from the way they’re written, but to complete those steps, someone has to create a list of all the triggers for their alcoholic urges,” Charles observes.  “When you make a self-inventory, you’re figuring out all the things that make you drink. And admitting to someone else all the bad things you’ve done is a pretty good way of figuring out the moments where everything spiraled out of control.” AA also asks us to search for the benefits we get from drinking.  “What cravings, the program asks, are driving your habit loop?” Interestingly, intoxication often doesn’t make the list.  “Alcoholics crave a drink because it offers escape, relaxation, companionship, the blunting of anxieties, and an opportunity for emotional release,” Charles writes.

These cravings for relief occur in a completely different part of the brain than the craving for physical pleasure. AA structures its program to provide alcoholics with the same rewards they receive from drinking.  “AA has built a system of meetings and companionship—the ‘sponsor’ each member works with—that strives to offer as much escape, distraction, and catharsis as a Friday night bender,” comments Charles. “You can relax and talk through your anxieties at the meetings. The triggers and payoffs stay the same, it’s just the behavior that changes,” says J. Scott Tonigan, a researcher at the University of New Mexico, who has studied AA for more than a decade. There is one other element that helps alcoholics in addition to habit replacement. “Over and over again, alcoholics said the same thing,” Charles writes.  “Identifying cues and choosing new routines is important, but without another ingredient, the new habits never fully took hold. The secret, the alcoholics said, was God.”

Charles quotes John, a self-described former atheist: “Without a higher power in my life, without admitting my powerlessness, none of it was going to work,” he reflects.  “I knew that if something didn’t change, I was going to kill my kids.  So I started working at that, working at believing in something bigger than me.”

The final, essential factor?   

“Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior,” Charles writes.

More tomorrow.


Reflection: What sense or meaning do I make from the story above?

Action:  Journal about it or discuss with a friend.